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AAL Arte AL Limite

March/April 2016

Patricia Schnall - The Feminine Condition

By: Luciana Acuna, Curator and Art Critic ( Argentina)



Multi-faceted, Schnall ́s work travels through different formats such as drawing, performance, painting, sculpting or video. Her personal universe suggests different perspectives on the inquiry of the feminine condition.


It is not by chance that one of the formats the artist chooses is performance; the body from this perspective becomes a territory of an investigation. When it comes to unraveling meaning and senses behind her work, the personal universe of the artist evidences a previous knowledge, however, the referential elements chosen by Schnall allow a subjectivity that is not misguided, and is in tuned with what she suggests.

In many aspects, her work ́s corpus could be linked to artistic affiliations related to anti-form and a kind of minimalism; however, the materials the artist chooses to develop her work are far from the industrialized coldness and refined forms characteristic of the most Anglo-Saxon minimalism. In this particular case, waste materials contain an emotional burden, that could somehow be related to the informality of existentialism, to the scarcity of finite. This is why her creative process is decisive when it comes to explaining her work.

From generality, the use of serial could be related to that search to decipher women ́s everyday life, through a critical view towards the traditional domestic world in which women ́s functions are scoped, because of the only fact of being conditioned by her genre. What happens with women ́s aspirations? Schnall ́s work proposes the silence of hopes that cannot be achieved only due to the fact

of being a woman, and how contemporary patriarchy is still an entrenched problem in both a cultural and worldwide level.

In regards to her personal universe, the artist comments that during an artistic residency in France she learned about a group of women equivalent to troubadours. She then investigated about this particular group of women who lived in the Occitan region of what is nowadays southern France, during the twelfth and thirteen centuries, called the Trobairitz (female troubadours). Let ́s consider the following: if almost all the main museums of the world do not exhibit the work of female artists, what would happen to these musical revolutionaries during the fourteenth century in the genealogy of secular music? It makes sense to consider that the artist was seriously limited while she was gathering the necessary material for her investigation, and this was fundamental when conceiving her creative process, since it pushed the vindication role of these women to a historical level.

Patricia Schnall could only have access to very few of the verses created by these females, and, therefore, the quest to rescue their identity became instinctive, and she decided to grant them a face. She portrayed them in a fictional way, achieving this vindication –by rescuing a fact of micro-history– emphasizing all women and the realities predestined to their condition. It is appropriate to highlight that her initial search is like a breeze of fresh air that – from contemporary art– allows us to become acquainted with these historical tales silenced by the story about “the history of humanity.” It is in this point where Schnall becomes an activist in her artistic role of vindicating women historically in the construction of society, breaking away from patriarchal structures of meta-history.

Another jewel the artist comments resides on the inclusion of textile sewn to the portraits. At first site viewers can relate this to the more traditional labors of sewing in the feminine world, and I must confess that on a first insight I personally made an association between the stitches and the oppression that links women to an “angel of home” role, a drawing contained in the sharp reality of a piece of real seam and the drawing, on its hand, as a space of freedom on another substratum of perception.

Part of her diverse investigations made Schnall learn about a particular fact about the Occitan zone of Paris during the thirteenth century, where women landowners whose husbands had died on the crusades had no right to demand anything because, as a catholic bishop stated: “They had to go home and take care of their sewing labors, and quit minding men ́s businesses”. These, and many other inquiries, are why the artist decided to use the images of the animal bestiary of the middle ages to exemplify the thinking order established by the Catholic Church. This is why the artist contacted Gilles Bancarel, who is responsible for administrating and directing the file department of historical books in the CIRDOC mediatheque, in Bezier, to access first-hand mythical books. From there he comments that the conceptions of good and evil, power and weakness, morality and immorality are representations that never stopped living on the cultural, anthropological and psychological horizon of the Western world.

These drawings went through a long process, during which the artist experienced a series of modifications through which faces became androgynous and at the same time intervened them with pieces of fabric from her own clothes; it is not a casualty that she uses the term “stripped” since, at present, even though the female gender has improved in some ways, others sill remain as barriers and obstacles.



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